Trust Your Gut Instinct
Thanksgiving Dinner and Super Bowl Sunday… what do these two events have in common? That expanded feeling you have in your stomach at the end of the day! That’s right… bloating! Bloating is that swollen feeling you get in your stomach, making it look bigger and feel expanded. It’s a common occurrence in both men and women of all ages and is typically easily treated (1).
Generally, bloating occurs when you have too much gas in your gut/digestive tract. But what’s causing that excess gas? What causes bloating? Most of the causes are treatable just by changing parts of your lifestyle, but some causes might require medical attention. It’s important to understand what’s causing the bloating in order to be able to stop it from happening.
8 Common Causes of Bloating
Whether it just be a passing moment or something that’s ailed you for quite some time, you don’t want your bloat to get in the way. Looking for the source of the issue is key to solving your bloating troubles. Let’s take a look at these 8 common causes of bloating and see what we can do about them!
Eating Too Fast
It can be very tempting to scarf down food when you’re hungry. You’ve been smelling those lovely smells coming from your stovetop for the past hour and you’re ready to chow down. But eating too fast is never really a good thing, as you tend to eat too much when you eat quickly.
It takes time, about 15/20 minutes, for your stomach to send signals to your brain to tell you you’re full (2). If you eat too fast, then your brain doesn’t get those signals in time, so you keep on eating and eating. And once your brain gets those “I’m stuffed” signals from your stomach, you’ve already overeaten. This causes your stomach to expand, from the excess gas produced, as well as the space needed for the excess food.
Some foods tend to create more gas in your digestive tract than others. Foods like beans, cauliflower, broccoli, etc., all produce more gas when they’re broken down in your body. When there is an excess of gas in your digestive tract, your gut tends to swell and bloat.
Excessive gas can also be caused from eating or drinking too fast. In order to get that food down your esophagus, you naturally swallow excess air to ease the movement down to your digestive tract. And by swallowing excess air, there ends up being a buildup of air/gas in your digestive tract. This, once again, ends up bloating your gut, needing for you to release that excess air either through burping or flatulence.
Drinking Too Many Carbonated Drinks
Next time you wonder whether you should enjoy still or sparkling water, be conscious about that bloat. That’s not to say that you should never enjoy carbonated drinks, but be mindful! Carbonated drinks either have natural gases or have been made ‘bubbly’ with the addition of carbon dioxide. Those fancy bubbles are practically air pockets that eventually burst in your digestive tract, causing a buildup of air. That excess gas then can cause your stomach to bloat, leaving you feeling like a balloon.
Let’s break the ice with this one… everyone poops! It’s a normal occurrence, as it’s a healthy sign to pass stool (poop). It shows that you’re digestive tract and bowel are working properly, getting rid of the waste from the foods that you eat. Constipation is when you have a difficult time passing stool or it becomes quite infrequent, typically less than 3 bowel movements in a week.
When you experience constipation, you may have excess stool backed up in your bowel. This backup causes your gut to expand and feel bloated. And as the stool remains in your bowel, it continues to release gases, causing you to bloat even further. To help subside constipation, try drinking more water, as well as increasing your physical activity and dietary fiber intake!
During the time of the month in which a woman has their menstrual cycle, their estrogen and progesterone hormones tend to fluctuate. Throughout the fluctuation, these hormone levels rise and fall. When the estrogen levels rise, the body tends to hold onto water more than usual. When our bodies increase water retention, it can cause the gut to bloat. The same concept of hormonal fluctuations occurs during perimenopause and menopause, which is why bloating may occur during that duration of time.
Rather a general term, indigestion is commonly known to be discomfort in your upper stomach/abdomen. Whenever your stomach/digestive system doesn’t work properly, it can lead to indigestion. If you overeat, eat too many fatty foods, eat too quickly, drink too much alcohol, etc., this can all lead to indigestion. When your stomach takes a hit from its normal functioning, it tends to become inflamed and swell. Thus, this sense of indigestion can lead to bloating.
Our gut contains trillions of bacteria, mostly good bacteria and some bad bacteria. Probiotics are good, living bacteria in your digestive tract that help with overall gut health, including digestion. When there is an imbalance of these bacterias, our stomach doesn’t work at its peak performance. It can lead to improper digestion, poor absorption of vitamins and minerals, etc. These bacterial imbalances can then lead to excess gas being produced, as well as swelling, which then causes bloating. Make sure you are consuming the right prebiotics and probiotics to keep your gut in tip-top shape! Check out our articles on the best prebiotic and probiotic foods for a healthier gut!
Typically, bloating doesn’t require immediate attention, as it can usually be solved by yourself or with time. In other scenarios, bloating can be a sign of something more serious/medically related. With these scenarios, seeking out medical attention from a doctor may be a good option.
Some people are intolerant to certain types of foods, such as lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance. When someone is lactose intolerant, their bodies don’t have the proper lactase enzyme that’s needed to break down lactose. After eating dairy products, like cheese, milk, ice cream, etc., you may feel like you are bloated, nauseous, and might need to use the restroom. Others who are gluten intolerant, also known as celiac disease, have an adverse reaction to consuming foods with gluten in them, like certain breads, alcoholic drinks, etc. If you are gluten intolerant, you may experience inflammation if you consume gluten, causing you to swell and bloat.
Other medical-related issues can include general gut sensitivity, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Similar to other intolerances, people with IBS cannot easily digest certain foods, causing excess gas and bloating. There are foods that you can focus on eating to help treat IBS and prevent it. Another issue can be individuals with gastroparesis, a condition that affects your stomach muscles and delays bowel movements. The food stays longer in your digestive tract which produces excess gas, causing swelling and bloating.
What Can You Do About It?
After reading about so many different ways in which your body may bloat, it might seem as if all hope is lost. But quite the opposite! There are many ways in which you can be aware and relieve your body of bloat. Read up on different way to reduce bloat here!